Los Angeles Triathlon Club
Race Report
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Club Member: John Thum
Race: Ironman Arizona, Nov. 2008
Distance: Ironman
Article URL: thegreatmagneticfield.blogspot.com
Race Date: 11/23/08
Submit Date: 11/28/08

I got to the race site at about 5:00 am. I was not nervous, mostly bored. I usually enjoy getting to a race site early, but I usually have a lot more to do. I talked to a few folks, I got body marked, which I later realized was fruitless because since I donít wear sleeveless shirts and I do wear long compressions socks up to my knees, no one could see my body markings anyway. I guess it is just a reminder of my accomplishment as I try to scrub off the numbers over the subsequent days after the event. There was small church service/time of prayer at about 5:45. Since I was not going to be going to church that day I thought it would be nice to join in. There was some reading of scripture and a prayer, but honestly, I cannot remember what was said. I do remember praying that I would be the best I could be. I had prepared the best I knew how and now it was in Godís hands. Whatever happened, happened. I got my wet suit on. Because it was cold, I put the whole thing on over my arms and chest. I guy came up to me and asked if I were a pro. This question certainly surprised me a little. I was not standing in the pro racking area and I donít really have that pro-triathlete look about me. I said, ďno, Iím not, but thanks for the question. Why do you ask?Ē He was wondering that because I already had my wetsuit on and the pros started ten minutes earlier than the age-groupers. I let him know that I put on my wetsuit because I was cold. He thought that sounded like a good idea. We wished each other luck. I finally met up with my wife and handed her my cell phone, Crocs and other assorted items, she took a couple of photos, she wished me luck and I started over to the swim start. I was taking my time because I wanted to swim near the rear. I had no desire to have hundreds of faster swimmers swim over me. The pros started at 6:50 and at that time the age-groupers started getting in the water. We had a couple hundred yards to swim to the start, so we had to get in right away. I hung out by the Mill Street Bridge pylon about 20 yards from the start. Athletes were swimming in, but as the cannon went off to signal the start of the race, there were hundreds still swimming over. I wasn't going to wait for them, I'd just have to deal with it. There is nothing quite like a start of an Ironman race. There are over two thousand people doing a mass swim start and it is nothing but bodies and elbows and legs. About two minutes in, long before the mass of bodies had sorted itself out I got kicked in the side. A rather large guy was doing the breast stroke. I swam past him and thinking unkind thoughts. Why would a guy start doing the breast stroke in the middle of other people like that? He had to have kicked someone on each stroke. The guy behind me got kicked and screamed, "dude, watch it!" The large breast-stroker said, "that's the way I swim." I guess he kept on kicking people until the mass cleared. I had my own swim to do and was glad I was out of range of his legs. Things cleared remarkably fast. Within five minutes I had a reasonable amount of space to swim. Since sighting has been a major problem every time I swim in Tempe Town Lake, I decided to just swim and look up every so often. Perhaps that was a mistake because after about ten minutes I was quite near the edge of the lake. I went off course by a few hundred yards. I just took advantage of the fact that if I stayed near the edge, I would at least go wide, but straight. I felt good and I knew I wasn't swimming fast, but I also knew I had a very long day ahead of me and I didn't want to "leave it in the lake." The Rural Road Bridge, which marked the turn around point kept slowly getting closer and finally came. Sighting on the way back is much easier, but I still managed to swim a little wide. I don't know how much distance I added to my swim by my lack of good sighting skills, but I assume it may be as much as five to ten percent. I made the last turn and started swimming towards the stairs that get us out of the water. I'd swim about ten strokes and look up, swim ten more and look up. For some reason the stairs didn't seem to be getting much closer. I suppose it is the anticipation of wanting to get out of the water, but the last hundred and fifty yards of the swim seemed to take a really long time and was much harder than the rest. I finally got out and looked at my watch 1:49. You gotta be kidding! I knew this was a possibility, I have had a few bad swims this season, but this felt much faster. My final swim time for 2.4 miles was 1:49:33. The wetsuit strippers were waiting for me and got me out of my wetsuit quite quickly. I ran to transition where a volunteer handed me my swim to bike transition bag. Ironman races are so well organized you can go through the transitions in very short order. That being said, I took my time. I was going out on a hundred and twelve mile bike ride. I wanted to make sure everything was okay. I changed into my bike gear and headed out. Just outside of the change tent there were people there to apply sunscreen. A couple of women from the L.A. Tri Club,who I had just met the day before and who were there to volunteer and sign up for next year's race were my sunscreen appliers. I told them to slather it on thick. A quick stop into the port-a-potty and then it was off to grab my bike. My T1 time was 00:11:43. Shortly after I got on I heard someone yell, "John!" It was Iron Monica from I Just Want The Tattoo. As I passed her she said, "Slow John is riding pretty fast." I guess all of the energy I must have saved by swimming so slow was translating into biking fast. I was feeling great and going pretty fast. I passed by a large group of L.A. Tri Club supporters who yelled out, "go L.A." and "Stay FongStrong" as I passed. There was a little wind, but not as bad as when I rode the course on Wednesday. I was passing a lot more people than were passing me. Always a good sign. I was going faster than I expected. I didn't want to burn myself out, but I didn't feel as if I were really pushing it. I felt as if I could keep up that pace for a long time. It wasn't until about nine miles into my ride that I was passed by the leading pro, who was already on his second lap of the three loop course. And then for the next half hour I was being passed by a lot of guys with names like Lars and Heindrick and Jozsef. The next wave was the very fastest amateurs and then the female pros. As Joanna Zeiger passed me, I yelled, "don't wait for me, I'll catch up later." She turned around and smiled. I'm glad I brought a smile to her face because after leading off of the bike, she was passed on the run and eventually dropped out. She later announced that that was to be her last Ironman race. I finally got to the turn-around and was looking forward to the push that the wind would give me to go back. Shortly after the turn-around was when I started getting passed by more people than I passed. These were the best of the age-groupers and these are a very serious bunch. I'm sure most were trying to get a spot at Kona. My plan stayed the same: just keep going at a pace I can maintain and make the bike cut-off. My other concern on the bike was getting enough nutrition for the long day. I set the alarm on my Garmin ForeRunner to go off every fifteen minutes. I ate and drank on the 15s, 30s and 45s and drank and took a couple of Endurolyte pills for added electrolytes at the top of every hour. It seemed to work. I never felt either overly full or hungry or thirsty. The wind died down to almost nothing on the second and third loop, which was great news going out, but made it much harder coming back without that tailwind. By the time I started my third and final loop on the bike, I was fairly certain I would finish the race and become an Ironman. There was still a long way to go, but I really wasn't slowing down much and another thirty eight miles to complete the course did not at all seem daunting. The only thing that started to feel bad was my rear end. After about five hours on a bike, one's behind is very sore. By the time I was riding the last few miles, I was really looking forward to getting off of that bike and running a marathon. I pulled into transition and my Garmin indicated that I would complete the bike in under seven hours and maintained an average speed of slightly over sixteen miles per hour. This included a couple of stops for the bathroom as well as a stop to pick up my special needs bag to reload on my nutrition supplies. My final bike time was 6:58:23. I was in the bike to run transition in slightly under nine hours. Many of the male pros and very top amateurs had already finished. The top female pros were just about to finish. I still had a marathon ahead of me, but I also had eight hours to complete it. If I had to, I could walk a marathon in eight hours. I knew at that point, barring something terrible happening, I would become an Ironman. I sat down in the changing tent next to Frankie, my triathlon buddy for the day back in March at the Ironman California 70.3. (Half Ironman). As we were changing we discussed this. We knew we would make it. My T2 time was 00:7:16 Out of transition, I got another slather of sunscreen and visited the port-a-potty before heading out on the run. I loaded up with gels and Clif Bars for nutrition on the run. Less than half a mile in I realized I was too loaded down. All of this stuff was bouncing up and down and annoying me. I hated to do it, but I knew the aid stations were going to have stuff to eat, so when I came to the next trash can on the course, I dumped about ten bucks worth of gels away. After I did so, running became a lot easier. My plan on the run was to do it just as I had trained. I was going to use the Jeff Galloway method of running for five minutes and walking for one. Plus I was going to walk through the aid stations which were located approximately every mile. This worked very well for the first loop of the three loop course, but I was delayed somewhat on the second loop by a great deal of intestinal distress. I seem to have to visit the port-a-potty about every two miles. This was certainly going to slow me down. Oh well, I otherwise felt good. The sun went down by the time I finished my first loop and it was starting to get a little chilly. In my special needs bag I had a long-sleeve running shirt. The special needs bags were located at about mile twelve. I put on my shirt and realized I was too hot with it on. I took it off and tied it around my waste. However, the special wick-away material is quite slippery and it wouldn't hold. I was going to either have to carry it in my hands or wear it. I tried carrying it and I didn't want to do that for very long. I put it on again and I was too hot. I briefly thought of just throwing it out, but this is a very nice, forty dollar, running shirt. I wasn't going to just chuck it. I decided to just wear and wait for it to get colder. It took about thirty minutes, but it finally cooled down to where I was dressed comfortably. I continued to have intestinal distress. The only thing I really wanted at the aid stations were water, the hot chicken broth and coke. When doing a triathlon it is the only time that coca-cola is considered nutrition. But it sure is nutrition. It has the calories you need, the caffeine and carbohydrates. The perfect food. As I finished my second loop, I ran past the place where you turn for the finish. By this time I was almost thirteen hours into this thing and ready for it to be over. I certainly didn't think of quitting, but it would have been nice if I were heading for the finish. I continued on and my feet and legs were getting sore. Each time I started running again after a walk break, it was a little harder. I knew I was going to be in for some pain during this thing and it had arrived. It hurt to take each step. I would run for thirty seconds after a walk break and then walk again. I knew I should be running, so I started again, but it hurt too much and so I walked again. This went on from about mile nineteen to about mile twenty one. Finally I did the calculation. I would not make my goal of fifteen hours, but I would easily make the cutoff to be an official Ironman finisher if I walked the rest of the way. My publicly stated goal was seventeen hours. If you can swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles in seventeen hours, you are an Ironman. I knew I would be an Ironman and there was no need to put myself through what was becoming excruciating pain to do so. A sense of calm came over me. I was going to be an Ironman and I was going to make the cutoff in plenty of time. Each step was still painful, but not nearly as much as when I ran. I still ran down a few down-hill sections, but I walked most of the last five miles. As I got closer and closer, especially the last two miles. Almost everyone I passed would say things like, "you're going to be an Ironman. Good Going!" By this time almost everyone was walking. A couple of people ran/shuffled by me, but they would stop to walk also. I got to that part of the course where you either go for another loop or head for the finish. This time I got to go for the finish. There were a lot of people around and they were all saying, "just a few hundred yards." About twenty yards before I turned to go into the finisher's chute I started running again. Suddenly it was light. There were hundreds of people screaming. I knew my wife was there somewhere, but I couldn't see her. I was high-fiving people as I ran by. Mike Reilly announced, "from West Hollywood, California...John Thum, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!" My final run time was 6:19:46 and my total time for the entire Ironman Triathlon was 15:26:41 There were two volunteers to meet me. They congratulated me and asked me how I felt. I felt good. They asked me my name and where I was from and my race number. They were trying to determine if I needed to go to the medical tent. They do this with all finishers. They took me over to have my timing chip taken off and to get my finisher's medal, t-shirt and cap and finally to the food tent. I guess passed their test because they finally let me go to go have something to eat. I was and I am an Ironman. This has been more than a year in the making. However, it really has been very fast. I did my first sprint triathlon in September of 2006 and in November of 2008 I became an Ironman. Pardon my pride, but I find it rather remarkable. As the motto of Ironman goes: Anything Is Possible. This report plus others can be seen with pictures at my blog at www.thegreatmagneticfield.blogspot.com

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